Selhurst Park, early Saturday kick off and the first game back from an international break; the stars aligned and it seemed certain that Liverpool would be dropping points in their 32nd league game of the season. This was almost set in steel when Alexander-Arnold was beaten by the inside run and Karius came flying out to give Palace and penalty and a 1-0 lead after just 13 minutes, a yellow card for diving partnered with a disallowed goal for Mane had Liverpool fans thinking “it’s one of those days” as the teams went in with the 1-0 score line after the first 45 minutes.
This match fell into the cliché of a game of two halves, a wave of the magic Klopp wand and Liverpool came flying out the blocks in the second half; drawing level within three minutes and putting themselves in the lead with less than ten minutes of the game to go. With a big win in Liverpool’s battle to finish in the Champions League places consecutively for the first time in a decade, here are five things we learnt from Liverpool’s victory at Selhurst Park.
- Liverpool can win ugly
It isn’t healthy, but there was something so satisfying about Liverpool playing nowhere near their best but still coming out with a big three points against a bogey team. We rode our luck at times, Mane should have seen a second yellow for picking the ball up and Benteke put the type of performance in for Palace that Liverpool fans were all too familiar with. The result on Saturday was the type of game you always see rivals win, ones that you’re watching thinking “jammy bastards” but also thinking “why can’t Liverpool do this once in a while?”
If you want to be competing for league titles then you have to have a couple of these games in your locker, United do it a lot, Spurs do it too, even the footballing porn that is Manchester City have had to scrape through at times. When you’re competing in the league its all well and good beating teams by five goals at Anfield but if you can’t follow it up with three points in a tough game then you’ll get nowhere fast, if Liverpool can repeat these type of results a handful of times a season going forward then our position in the table will start to show just how good we are.
- Mo Salah and his world class tendencies
Mo Salah was far off the performances of other players in the team on Saturday, but here we are yet again talking about him. Salah is having an incredible debut season for Liverpool and it seemed like his performances had hit a new level when he smashed four goals past Watford however, it’s this goal against Palace that shows that he is well and truly a world class talent.
Every elite player is a flat track bully, they kick teams when they’re down and when you might think the hat-trick is enough they add a fourth just for their personal glory. Those types of performances are what pad their individual stats, the ones that win them Ballon D’ors, Golden Boots and player of the year awards.
It’s the important goals that benefits the team they’re playing for, either a decisive goal in a big match or a moment late on that swings the game in their team’s favour when all else looks to have failed; thats what Mohamed Salah did this weekend. It wasn’t his finest game in a Liverpool shirt, its excusable because every other week he is firing on all cylinders; but going into the game Palace’s defence would have singled out the Egyptian and for 83 minutes they did their jobs very well. Salah hardly got a look in but when the ball fell to him in the box the previous 80 minutes didn’t matter, he still had the composure to take that touch and find the opposite corner to give Liverpool the lead.
Four goals in a five-nil win or a late goal to beat a bogey team and take us 10 points ahead of fifth place, I know which one I’d have every week.
- Attack is the best form of defence
Since the injury to Joe Gomez on international duty there’s been a lot of talk about Trent Alexander-Arnold; with Clyne only just getting back into the swing of things it’s almost certain that Alexander-Arnold will be playing in the biggest game of his short career so far when City come to Anfield on Wednesday. Almost everyone would probably have preferred Gomez for that game so when Alexander-Arnold got torn apart by Wilfred Zaha for 45 minutes he didn’t do much to instil confidence into the fanbase for Wednesday.
A quick 15-minute break and a talking to from Jurgen Klopp changed Trent’s fortunes in the second half, instead of worrying about what Wilfred Zaha was going to do the right back made Zaha worry about what he’s doing. Alexander-Arnold bombed forward at every opportunity and with Zaha not tracking his man it put Crystal Palace on the back foot, it made Zaha play with his back to goal more and meant he was easier to isolate when he did get possession.
Wednesday is going to be another step up for the young player, Sane is 10x the player that Zaha is and if he has another 45 minutes like he did at Selhurst Park then Liverpool could find themselves 3-0 down with the tie over. In order to prevent this, he needs to make Sane fulfil his defensive duties, whoever starts at left back for City will already have Mo Salah to worry about so an overlapping wing back is going to have to be tracked by an attacking player.
This is how Liverpool will silence Sane on Wednesday, obviously City are brimming with talent and they have many gamechangers in their side but Alexander-Arnold presents himself as the weak link, he will be targeted so the young right back and Liverpool have to make sure than Sane spends as much time in and around his own box as possible.
- Lovren and Van Dijk is the way forward
Just when it seemed to be going so well for Lovren he’s out doing more interviews and then United happened, he hasn’t played since with Matip starting against both Watford and Crystal Palace but the Cameroon defender’s performance at Selhurst Park will give Lovren hope that he will be chosen to start against Manchester City on Wednesday.
Unfortunately for Matip it just didn’t happen for him at the weekend, his passing was off, Benteke was getting the better of him and if the striker’s finishing was a bit better then he could have come away with a goal or two thanks to Matip’s positioning.
Just eight minutes into the game, he stops and appeals for a handball instead of playing to the whistle; it was only thanks to a wonderful stop for Karius that Liverpool didn’t concede earlier than when they did. Yes, Alexander-Arnold gets beaten by the inside run and yes Zaha does handle it but Matip had the chance to make life difficult for the winger and instead stops to appeal to the referee.
Similarly, he’s not the main person to blame for Palace’s penalty but watching it back you just question what he’s doing. He follows Benteke as he drops to win the flick on but then leaves the big man for Henderson to deal with, meaning all he’s accomplished is leaving a gap in the back four for Zaha to run on to.
Like I said he isn’t the main culprit for Liverpool’s defensive woes in that game, but his overall performance in the 90 minutes certainly wouldn’t have filled Jurgen Klopp with confidence ahead of the Champions League game.
- James Milner’s form makes him undroppable
The injury to Emre Can meant that Liverpool started with a seemingly industrial midfield three, Henderson Wijnaldum and Milner didn’t seem to offer a lot on paper and whilst the other two didn’t have the best of games Milner could come away with his head held high.
Everything that happened for Liverpool went through James Milner, his passing and link up with the front three provided the chances and his assist for the first goal was a moment of class. His defensive contribution can’t be faulted either, now at the age of 32 Milner is still an absolute engine and is truly fulfilling the role of a box to box midfielder for Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Emre Can is yet to be ruled out of the Manchester City game and if its proven he’s fit enough to play then it should be partnering James Milner, not replacing him. The Englishman is one of the few players in the squad who has played in these types of games and with it being against his former team it gives that extra bit of motivation for him.
Milner is such a dangerous player for the opposition to think about, he pops up all over the pitch, on the left or the right and whilst it goes un-noticed the cover he provides for Robertson when he bursts forward is vital to preventing a counter attack. With the pace that City possess its important that we don’t get caught short at the back, Milner prevents this whilst still contributing to the teams attacks.
So, there is five things we learnt from Liverpool’s game at the weekend, with our biggest game of the season coming up on Wednesday its excusable that we had one eye on the future on Saturday. Now that we’ve got past that potential banana peel of a game all eyes are on the visit of City on Wednesday and our fight to make yet another Champions League semi-final.
Article by Louis Connor
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